Coyote v. Acme -- The Response
Stephen Menard, a litigation attorney at a defense firm in Philadelphia, wrote this reply to the "Wile E. Coyote sues ACME" item. Undated, but circulated the second quarter of 1995.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHWESTERN DISTRICT OF ARIZONA
WILE E. COYOTE,
CIVIL ACTION NO. B19294
OPENING STATEMENT OF ARTHUR B. FUDDLE, ESQUIRE, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT:
Ladies and Gentleman of the jury: the opening statement you have just heard from Mr. Schoff on behalf of the plaintiff, Wile E. Coyote, paints an incomplete picture of what occurred on the occasions when Mr. Coyote claims he was injured by ACME products.
The evidence will clearly show that my client, ACME Products Corp., a Division of Dangerously Innovative Products and Patents Incorporated (or "DIPPI"), is not at fault in this matter, and that any injuries sustained by the plaintiff were clearly caused by his own negligence, assumption of the risk and/or misuse of the products.
Now, we have all seen the footage on television of the plaintiff withstanding various injuries which appear to be caused by ACME's products. You have seen over and over the tape of a hapless coyote being bludgeoned by a boulder as he is helplessly trapped by his ACME Spring Loaded Shoes. We have all seen the photographs taken at Warner Memorial Hospital of Mr. Coyote in a very small incubator, on life support, as his doctors attempt to straighten out the accordion-like folds from his body. We have all seen the gruesome images of the operation in which Dr. Tazmanian D. Devil whirls like a dervish, obscuring his features and creating a starry, "dust cloud" effect, while numerous limbs holding various surgical instruments swiftly repair the nerve damage to Mr. Coyote's extremities.
It is normal for any human being to feel pity, horror, and even anger at such images. I want you to put those images aside for the moment, because they paint an incomplete picture. What the media has not disclosed to you, and what you will see in this courtroom, are various attempts at murder committed by the plaintiff -- attempts which, fortunately, failed -- while using my client's products. As the plaintiff readily admits, he is a predator, and his sole function in life is to track down and kill an innocent, highway traversing ornithoid.
You see, ladies and gentleman, while the plaintiff is a natural predator, he is not a very good one. His own skills were inadequate to complete the task at hand, so he chose to seek the aid of various devices to effectuate his diabolical schemes. He looked in a catalogue, saw my client's products, and ordered them in the hope that they would assist him in killing his prey.
But ladies and gentleman, ACME's products are not meant to cause intentional harm to anyone. The plaintiff has taken what were designed as amusements, toys for the young and feebleminded, and has twisted their use to his own purposes.
But I digress. Let us examine the plaintiff's claims and how the evidence clearly refutes the proposition that ACME is responsible for any harm sustained by the plaintiff.
Mr. Coyote states that on December 13 he received an ACME Rocket Sled, that he attempted to use said rocket sled to pursue his prey, and that, upon igniting the sled, it accelerated with "sudden and precipitate force as to stretch Mr. Coyote's forelimbs to a length of fifty feet."
There are several reasons why ACME cannot be held responsible for any injuries caused by this incident. First, the warning label attached conspicuously to the inside of the left front tire of the sled clearly stated, and I quote: "WARNING: Ignition of this device at full throttle may cause sudden and precipitate force as to stretch user's forelimbs to a length of up to sixty feet, or may cause death." That the plaintiff suffered so little as a result of his carelessness can be attributed only to Providence.
Second, Arizona law is clear on this point: a plaintiff who is found to be violating any law whose purpose is safety at the time of his injury is contributorily negligent per se. There is ample evidence that Mr. Coyote was violating both the laws of gravity and inertia at the time of this incident, and thus he is responsible for his own woes.
I could list many more examples of Mr. Coyote's negligent conduct in connection with his use of ACME's products, but you will hear all about them as the trial goes on. You will also hear the following evidence:
- You will hear the plaintiff himself testify that, prior to the injuries complained of in this accident, he has suffered numerous injuries. As an example, on one occasion prior to the use of any ACME product, the plaintiff cornered his prey on the edge of a rather thin precipice. Taking an ordinary saw, the plaintiff began cutting away so that the edge of the cliff, with his prey on it, would drop some 1500 feet to a jagged, rocky destruction. Instead, by some inexplicable twist of fate the edge of the cliff remained standing while the whole mountain, on which the plaintiff was standing, plummeted to the bottom of the ravine, causing numerous injuries which affect the plaintiff to this day.
- On another occasion, Mr. Coyote was chasing his prey and followed it off of the edge of a cliff onto thin air, not realizing until too late that his prey, a bird, could remain in the air almost indefinitely while he, a canine, could not. As a result, he fell yet again, suffering even further severe and debilitating injuries which predate the injuries complained of in this action.
- You will also hear the testimony of Mr. Road Runner, the plaintiff's prey and the true victim in this tragedy. Mr. Runner has been forced to live a nomadic lifestyle as a result of Mr. Coyote's unwanted attention, preventing him from forming any type of long term relationships. Numerous restraining orders had no effect. Mr. Runner has also suffered numerous psychological problems as a result of Mr. Coyote's actions, including but not limited to an inability to trust anyone who provides him with bird seed, a necessary ingredient in his daily nutritional schedule.
- You will also hear from a witness to many of the incidents alleged in plaintiff's complaint, a colorful local prospector with red hair and moustache who has been known to proclaim: "No rootin' tootin' coyote can outsmart Yosemite Sam on any day of the week!" Don't be fooled by his gruff manner and twin pearl-handled six-shooters, he's a pussycat.
- Customer service records of defendant ACME, which we were forced to produce in this matter, clearly show that none of the complaints registered by ACME's customers nationwide have ever resulted in criminal convictions of the officers of the corporation.
- Finally, videotape evidence will demonstrate that plaintiff faked many of his injuries, setting out to create performances especially for a jury such as yourself. On numerous occasions he would "mug" for the camera, as if he was well aware beforehand that he was being taped. For instance, during the "Rocked Sled" incident, as his forelimbs were stretched out ahead of him and his body remained behind, he looked straight into the camera with a forlorn, tired expression, as if to say: "look at how terrible my situation is, can you guess what's going to happen to me now." This jury is too smart to fall for such petty theatrics.
In summary, ladies and gentlemen, it will be clear to you from the evidence that ACME's products, if used properly, will cause only minimal injuries to a user and his loved ones. The plaintiff in this case has brought his troubles upon himself by adopting his carnivorous lifestyle. As others have so adequately uttered: "Live by the Super Slick Jet Propulsion Automated Explosive Metal-Shearing Heat-Seeking Laser-Guided Razor-Edged Boomerang, die by the Super Slick, etc."
I ask you, on behalf of my client, to dismiss the plaintiff's claims against the ACME company.
Posted June 10, 2004